Posted on January 13, 2009
There was this pile of bright yellow-orange egg fruit on a red table at St. Croix’s St. George Village Botanical Garden last summer. The jumble of shapes lit with an intense swath of sunlight across the front was irresistible. So I took it home with me.
Occasionally I will go to work immediately on a photograph to produce a final image. However, just as common is the months-long gestation that this one required. Several times I worked on it, was dissatisfied and put it away — only to bring it out later, delete a layer or two (a little like scraping the paint off?) and move forward. That start and stop process sometimes produces an image that is over-worked. But in other cases, it is the only way.
The painting-a-day discipline of carrying a painting forward to completion each day is different from the luxury of allowing an idea to gestate, going back days later, and reconsidering the strokes of the brush (or in my case, the stylus). Not better or worse, but different. So does that different process lead to different results?
Posted on January 10, 2009
There has been an interesting debate recently on Sue Favinger Smith’s “Ancient Artist” blog about the importance of developing a signature style. Martin Stankewitz has weighed in with his own contrasting opinion in his Squidoo Lens on the subject.
This has been an issue for me. I often venture off in different directions. While I could force myself to stay within a certain “box” for commercial purposes, I know that box could also become a prison (as Martin suggests).
On the other hand, an identifiable “style” is a likely outcome of the daily discipline of working on one’s art. In time, a style should develop and become apparent on its own. It will not need to be forced. Having a recognizable style may be a mark of maturity and accomplishment as an artist — assuming the artist allows that style to gradually evolve over time.
Style as a mark of maturity and accomplishment may also be one reason the galleries and marketing gurus encourage anyone who wants to advance commercially in the art world to find a style and stick with it. A “signature style” provides the appearance (although not necessarily the reality) of maturity and accomplishment. As a result, some may feel pressured to lock into a style for commercial purposes, perhaps before a genuine personal style has emerged on its own.
In the end, this is one more facet of the age-old tension between art for art’s sake, and monetary and public success. I know few people who have no need for the money or the sense of approval and respect for our work that an occasional sale can provide. Each must resolve the tension between commercial success and artistic freedom in their own way. I will be interested to see how I resolve it for myself.